Swimming and nutrition
Swimming requires a dedicated commitment to training, with elite swimmers training 6 to 12 times per week. Depending on the race distance, training sessions can cover up to 10km and include 1-2km of high-intensity sprints. As well as water based session, weight training sessions are completed several times a week by elite swimmers. Training commitments are usually lower at a school or club level.
Swimming requires a serious commitment to training, with elite swimmers training anywhere from 6 to 12 times per week. Training sessions can cover up to 10km and include 1-2km of high intensity sprints. At the elite level, swimmers can swim up to 6 hours per day and also complete other land-based forms of training including cycling or weights. Training commitments are usually lower at a school or club level but still involve multiple training session per week, usually held very early in the morning.
Swimming competitions may last for 2 to 7 days depending on the level of competition. Heats are usually swum in the morning and final raced at night. Races can last anywhere from 20 seconds to 15 minutes depending on the stroke and distance being raced. Over shorter distances, swimming is a very anaerobic sport with aerobic metabolism increasing with longer distances. In some competitions swimmers may compete 2 to 3 times per day and have as little as 20 minutes to recover between races while in other situations there may be several hours between races.
Swimming requires the athlete to be tall and well-muscled especially in the upper body. Lower body fat levels can be an advantage as the swimmer has less weight to pull through the water. Many high-level swimmers are in their teens, this means that swimmers are often completing high volumes of training during periods of growth and muscular development. This can lead to high energy and nutritional requirements to meet needs and can make it a challenge to ‘get enough in’.
Body composition goals can be a challenge for female swimmers despite the heavy training loads, as adolescence brings hormonal changes that can lead to a natural increase in body fat. It is important that athletes, especially young females going through puberty, seek the advice of an Accredited Sports Dietitian to find the balance between body composition goals, health and wellbeing and of course, performance in the pool.
Training diet for swimming
Individual nutrition requirements will be determined by training load, specific athlete needs, training goals, body composition goals, health and adjustment for growth in younger athletes. Typically, training sessions are held early in the morning and as a result some swimmers skip breakfast before training for stomach comfort, lack of appetite or to sneak in an extra 10 minutes sleep! Ideally, swimmers should aim to eat breakfast or a light snack prior to training to maximise performance – especially for key training sessions. Liquid meal drinks or milk tetra packs can be useful for fuelling and stomach comfort, especially when appetite is poor.
Nutrition is often based around lean proteins for muscle repair and recovery, carbohydrate appropriately timed for fuel. In addition, fruit, vegetables, nuts, seeds and whole-grains provide important vitamins and minerals, along with some healthy fats. Busy schedules also need to be considered (work, school, university) and meals/snacks need to be organized for eating ‘on the run’ to optimize fueling and recovery.
In order to stay hydrated, swimmers should drink fluids should before, during and after training and events. However, body fluid needs will depend on individual fluid losses, which vary depending on individual sweat rate.
Although it can be difficult to identify sweat loss because of the water-based environment, pool areas (especially indoors) are often warm and humid which increases fluid losses. Water bottles should be taken to training and competitions and placed in an easily accessible location to ensure fluids are consumed regularly.
For most training sessions water is sufficient to meet hydration needs. However, if training for maximum performance, or during very long training sessions, sports drinks can be useful as they provide carbohydrate for fuel and electrolytes and fluid for hydration goals.
What to eat before swimming
Swimmers should have a high carbohydrate meal 2 to 4 hours prior to first race of competition. Fluids (mainly water) should be sipped regularly in the lead up the first race. To avoid stomach discomfort foods should be relatively low in fiber and fat. The pre-competition meal should be planned and practice during training (don’t try new foods or fluids on competition day!). Suitable pre-competition meals include:
- Wholegrain breakfast cereal with milk + fruit
- Fruit salad with yogurt and nuts
- English muffin with jam or cheese
- Sandwich / roll with salad + lean meat / cheese
- Porridge with banana and cinnamon
A small snack can also be
Here are the best meals that are high in carbohydrates
1. Sweet potatoes
Sweet potatoes are a delicious favorite to include in a range of meals.
One medium, baked sweet potato with the skin on has 23.61 grams (g) of carbohydrates. Sweet potatoes are an excellent source of potassium and vitamins A and C.
A 2015 study found that some of the carbohydrate molecules in purple sweet potato may also have antioxidant and antitumor benefits.
Beetroots, or beets, are a sweet, purple root vegetable that people can eat either raw or cooked.
One cup of raw beets has 13 g of carbs. Beets are rich in potassium, calcium, folate, and vitamin A. They also provide people with naturally occurring inorganic nitrates that can benefit heart health.
Corn is a popular vegetable that people can enjoy year-round as a side dish, on the cob, or in a salad.
A measure of 100 g of corn contains 25 g of carbohydrates and 3.36 g of protein. It also provides a good amount of vitamin C.
Grains and pseudo grains, which are the seeds of broadleaf plants, are great sources of carbohydrates. Whole-grain varieties provide protein and fiber and offer plenty of additional healthful benefits.
Grains are versatile and can form the main part of many meals. Rather than eating white rice and white bread, people can incorporate the following healthful high-carb grains into their diet:
Quinoa is a nutritious pseudograin. It tastes similar to other types of grain, and people can prepare and eat it in the same way.
One cup of quinoa contains 39.41 g of carbohydrates, 8.14 g of protein, and only 1.61 g of sugar.
Quinoa is also rich in minerals, including magnesium, potassium, and phosphorus.
As quinoa is high in both fiber and protein, it may help people lose weight. A 2010 study on rats has indicated that quinoa may help control blood sugar levels too.
5. Brown rice
Brown rice is a common side dish and a healthful alternative to white rice.
One cup of cooked brown rice has 36 g of carbohydrates.
This grain is also rich in antioxidants.
Oats are one of the most healthful and versatile whole grains. Different varieties are available, including rolled, steel cut, and quick oats.
A cup of old-fashioned rolled oats will provide 27 g of carbohydrates, in addition to 5 g of protein and 4 g of fiber.
Research has shown that oats can benefit people’s cardiovascular health.
Fruits are an excellent source of healthful carbohydrates, particularly those below.
Bananas are widely available and make for a convenient snack.
One medium banana has 26.95 g of carbs. Like sweet potatoes, they are also rich in potassium and vitamins A and C.
As a result of their potassium content, bananas are good for heart health and lowering blood pressure.
Apples are crunchy fruits that it is possible to buy year-round in grocery stores. They come in many varieties.
One medium apple contains 25.13 g of carbohydrates. It also provides vitamins A and C, potassium, and fiber.
According to a study involving older women, apples may lower the risk of disease-related mortality, including cancer mortality.
Mangos are sweet tropical fruit.
One cup of chopped mangos has 24.72 g of carbohydrates.
Mangos are also high in vitamins A and C, potassium, and fiber.
Try adding mango chunks to breakfast cereals or smoothies. Mango is also great eaten alone as a snack. They are ready to eat when they yield slightly to gentle pressure.
High-carb dried fruits
A range of healthful dried fruits can help people achieve their daily carbohydrate needs. People can try eating the following dried fruits alone as a snack or adding them to a trail mix or meal:
There are many varieties of date, and they are naturally sweet enough to be used as a sweet snack or dessert.
There are 17.99 g of carbohydrates in one pitted Medjool date. This fruit is also rich in fiber, calcium, phosphorus, potassium, and vitamin A.
Raisins are dried grapes that work as a standalone snack or can add flavor and texture to cereal bars, salads, yogurts, or granola.
One cup of raisins packs in 129.48 g of carbohydrates. They also contain minerals, including potassium, magnesium, phosphorus, and calcium.
Raisins are a good source of antioxidants too.
12. Goji berries
People refer to goji berries as a superfood due to their high antioxidant content.
One cup has 32 g of carbohydrates and 5 g of protein. Goji berries are also a great source of vitamin A.
Pulses, such as beans and lentils, are high in carbohydrates, protein, and fiber. They are a great addition to any diet and can help people feel fuller for longer.
Try the following healthful, high-carb pulses:
13. Kidney beans
Kidney beans belong to the legume family. They are one of the most common beans to include in the diet.
One cup of kidney beans has 21 g of carbohydrates. They are also a good source of protein and fiber, with 6.99 g and 8.1 g per cup respectively.
These beans also contain potassium and iron. The consumption of white or dark kidney beans may improve inflammation in the colon.
14. Garbanzo beans
Garbanzo beans, or chickpeas, are also legumes. They are the primary ingredient of hummus.
One cup contains 19.01 g of carbohydrates as well as 5 g of protein.
Garbanzo beans are rich in fiber and calcium. Study results suggest that they can improve heart health and digestion.
Lentils are popular high-protein legumes.
One cup of boiled lentils provides 39.86 g of carbohydrates along with 17.86 g of protein and 15.6 g of fiber.
Lentils are high in phosphorus, potassium, calcium, and folate.